[Last update: UNKNOWN 2001]

Bombing Halt Now or Mass Starvation by Thanksgiving?

Monday, October 29, 2001

SARAH ZAIDI, Research director of the Center for Economic and Social Rights, Zaidi is Pakistani. CESR has produced three comprehensive fact sheets on Afghanistan since September 11. She said today: "Relief officials on the ground are warning that millions -- literally millions -- of Afghan civilians will starve to death this winter unless the U.S. military suspends its attacks and allows the UN to re-establish effective food distribution. We are talking about women, children and the poorest of the poor, who have no means to access food in this war zone."

JIM JENNINGS, President of Conscience International, a humanitarian aid organization, Jennings was in Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan this May and will soon return to resume humanitarian work. He said today: "This is a race against time and we are losing. Even before September 11, there was a major humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, with millions of people facing severe food shortages. And even before the bombing began, Afghanistan had the largest number of refugees in the world -- and refugees depend on aid for survival. The interruption of vital food deliveries and the withdrawal of the staff of humanitarian agencies because of the bombing have created a dire situation for the already vulnerable population -- 70 percent were already malnourished. The Pentagon is claiming progress, but it has acknowledged the food drops are minuscule and it is dragging out its bombing campaign. Distribution and timing are crucial -- you could have food in Kabul and not distribute it to the people who need it in the countryside. Time is of the essence: we must act now before winter. The bombing has to halt, we need to get food in or Afghan people will begin starving in great numbers at about the same time Americans sit down for their Thanksgiving feast."

DOMINIC NUTT, Spokesperson for Christian Aid, Nutt recently arrived in London from Islamabad. He said today: "The simple fact is that less than 20 percent of what needs to is getting into Afghanistan and even less is getting distributed. The only way to deal with this is to have a pause in the bombing to stockpile food for the winter. The UN is estimating that 7.5 million people need food aid. People are starving now in some areas, according to our source of information from within Afghanistan. It was actually starting when I was in Afghanistan this August -- in Herat and Ghor Province. Every village I went to had been affected by drought. Camps were having deaths from hunger and hunger-related diseases. There are coping mechanisms, but after three years of drought they run out -- people have eaten the seed stock. About 85 percent of the people live in rural communities -- the roads are bad enough when the weather is good, you can't get food to those rural areas in the winter. It's going to get worse and worse; you could see entire villages wiped out. Governments have effectively sponsored the Taliban regime; it's a bit hypocritical, we think, for them to say that now it's crucial that they bomb the Taliban. Can't you wait four weeks for us to feed millions of innocent people at risk of starvation?"

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167


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